Sunday, March 22, 2009

Information Wanted on the 99th SRW and 348th BS of the 99th BW



In the mid-1950s, the USAF was experimenting with the concept of using large bombers to ferry RF-84K Thunderstreaks extreme distances; distances that a normal F-84 would not be able to cross on its own. From these large bombers the RF-84s were intended to launch and cross into enemy territory to take pictures and then they would return to their mother ship and then home. These large bombers were B-36s. They were redesignated GRB-36Ds. The GRB-36Ds operated from Fairchild AFB, near Spokane, Washington. There were only 10 modified as such. The RF-84Ks, of which there were approximately 25 built, operated from Larson AFB. This was called FICON, short for Fighter Conveyor.
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Now, I know that much. I DO NOT know what exactly these aircrft did at Fairchild and Larson. There is one experience noted in the book Magnesium Overcast about an RF-84K that experienced hydraulic failure. The pilot hooked up with a nearby GRB-36D and ended up stating that the GRB-36D was the best emergency alternate field he'd even been to. Surely, it was not all training and flight hours. There must have been some operational missions. This was a short time before the U-2...
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Is there anyone out there that knows about the 99th SRW and the 348th BS of the 99th BW? What were they doing with those RF-84Ks and GRB-36Ds??? I will be persuing this eventually via the Air Force Historical Research Agency, but obviously, first hand knowledge is preferential.
I welcome your input and support! Yes, I have been to http://www.rb-29.net/HTML/77ColdWarStory/04.01auaun.htm , but I want some first hand knowledge!!
Resource: Magnesium Overcast; the Story of the Convair B-36, by Dennis R. Jenkins.

UPDATE:  I had the pleasure of speaking to Richard Lynch this morning, of Charlotte, N.C.  This gentleman was a crewman aboard the GRB-36s at Fairchild.  He said he recalled two missions.  One in which they took off with the RF-84K in the bay and one in which they picked up the RF-84K in flight.  The time he was aboard to capture an RF-84K, the RF-84K was late.  He apparently got hooked up and was on fumes.  The pilot was happy to be picked up, since fuel was so low.  The GRB-36D was capable of refueling the fighter in flight.  Mr. Lynch says he was on the same flight with another gentleman whom he did not know was aboard the same flight until many years later. This is a testament to just how many men were aboard and the size of the aircraft.  Many thanks to the internet for making these connections possible! ~November 12, 2016.   

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Jim said...

There is a new book on the B-36 out: "Cold War Peacemaker" by Don Pyeatt and Dennis Jenkins. It has chapter on FICON but compared to what you described it may not add much. I could send you jpegs of pertinent pages. I have been working on restoring an RF-84K (http://www.wingsmuseum.org/exhibit_thunderflash.asp) and have continued to be fascinated by the aircraft and wish I had more of its history, as you describe. Please keep looking.

Jim Tegart